Cannabis and Anxiety - 3 Popular Questions Answered

byhellomd3 minutes

Rolling lockdowns. Social distancing. Working and learning from home. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has changed just about every aspect of our lives.

These back-to-back events can affect the way you are dealing with anxiety and how much rest may be able to get. If anxiety is an issue, the stress and cortisol levels in your system may be sending you into a chronic stress loop.

Fortunately, cannabis is known to treat various symptoms, whether they be physical, emotional, or psychological - including feelings of anxiety. Whether it's THC or CBD, these powerful cannabinoids are often used as an alternative or complementary treatment for various conditions such as anxiety.

Below we answer three popular questions about anxiety.

Q: During COVID, I've experienced intense anxiety. Can cannabis help me reduce the feeling of stress and anxiety?

Answer: Dr. Patricia Frye - HelloMD Doctor

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the major non intoxicating cannabinoid in cannabis. It is a potent anxiolytic and is very effective in reducing anxiety and the frequency of panic attacks. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can reduce anxiety at low doses. At high doses, however, it can exacerbate anxiety and cause paranoia and panic attacks.

People respond differently to cannabis, and what is a high dose to one person may not be to another. In my opinion, because CBD is so effective in reducing anxiety, it might be best to forego the THC.

CBD varieties like ACDC, Charlotte's Web, and Canna-Tsu have very small amounts of THC (CBD:THC ratios are usually around 20:1) and are used to treat conditions such as anxiety, depression, mood instability, and psychosis.

When consuming cannabis for anxiety, consider smoking flower or vaping for fast-acting relief of acute symptoms. That said, my preference is a high CBD tincture taken on an ongoing basis for chronic anxiety. When starting out, consult with your doctor or pharmacist and start with the minimum viable dosage.

Q: Why is CBD recommended to treat anxiety and THC less so?

Answer: Dr. Pinto - HelloMD Doctor

When taking a close look at medical studies and results of medical marijuana used to treat anxiety, it’s evident that the chemical makeup, specifically the presence of the chemical compound Cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, is the main cannabinoid and ingredient which treats anxiety effectively.

Research shows that THC, the psychoactive component, and CBD can have opposite effects when used to treat anxiety disorders. THC is linked to feelings of paranoia and anxiety because it activates the amygdala area of the brain, which is responsible for fear. However, this is not the case for all people who consume THC.

Alternatively, CBD has the opposite effect, studies show that taking CBD on its own can lower – even eliminate – anxiety.

For those looking to treat anxiety disorders with cannabis, treatment relies heavily on the appropriate dose. Research proves that THC begins to raise anxiety levels after a certain threshold is passed - but again, this is highly individual.

Those using medical marijuana to treat anxiety should find strains with higher levels of CBD.

Q: I have a high level of social anxiety, whether it's speaking to my colleagues at work during a meeting or asking simple questions to strangers while out shopping. Can cannabis help me overcome this?

Answer: Dr. Andrew VanDerMeer - HelloMD Doctor

Everyone reacts to cannabis differently, so there is no magic anxiety cure-all. However, through trial and error, you should find a strain and/or product that works to decrease anxiety and allow to overcome some of your social anxiety.

I would start with a CBD-dominant tincture or a hybrid strain. It would help if you experimented with the ratios, starting with a very high CBD:THC ratio (30:1 to 10:1).

Take a very small dose and titrate up as needed. CBD has excellent anti-anxiety properties, with only a slight dissociative effect. Many people find Indica helps with anxiety, but is a bit too sedating, while Sativa can cause an increase in anxiety.

Your best bet is a low dose of a high CBD strain or a hybrid strain with higher levels of CBD. I'd also recommend some meditative conscious breathing and some mindfulness training. I highly recommend a regular meditation practice, and cannabis can help allow one to relax enough to begin this practice.